Growing the Game: One Weekend at a Time

This past weekend marks a significant time of the year for rugby players, families and fans. In the tiny town of Saranac Lake, tucked within the Adirondack Mountains, the largest 15-player rugby tournament in the country takes place the first weekend in August.

This year the Can-Am Rugby Tournament celebrated 42 years of success, remembering the successful years of the integration of flag rugby for all kids (toddlers to 12-year-olds), local U19 teams, expanding social and premier divisions of men’s and women’s 15-player teams, and the development of the 45+ and 55+ divisions. The past few years the tournament featured international Quad (Wheelchair) Rugby games which continue to draw attention to the talent and variety of rugby players across the country.

Saranac Lake happens to be my hometown, and 2015 was the first year of my life that I wasn’t present for this beloved weekend. The Can-Am rugby Tournament not only represents a weekend of fun, it reminds me of the fortune I experienced belonging to a community that valued rugby as a sport and a business. For many of my rugby peers, my background growing up within the presence of rugby is unimaginable. Unlike residents in rugby-obsessed places like Wales, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, we Americans are only just learning to love the sport.

In the 2016 Olympics in Rio, 7-player rugby (7’s) will capture the world stage and businesses, sports networks will hopefully recognize the potential in fans of rugby across the globe. While this is an exciting development, it might overshadow the uniqueness of the Can-Am Tournament. In this little rugby community everyone from players, their friends and family, as well as local residents help to grow the sport every year by playing the game, planning and volunteering for the tournament, advertising their local businesses, and spreading the word back home.

With such a great record of growth and expansion, this tournament and community has created a model that towns and cities across the country can replicate in their own communities. To check out the tournament, visit their website. As a proud player and volunteer of the tournament, I’d be happy to field any questions about how to play in the tournament and how to create one of your own! Just add me as a friend via UBsports.

Until next week,
Baylee Annis
UBsports Rugby Ambassador

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